12:40 GMT +318 January 2020
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    During a Saturday press conference in Damascus, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem described the US military presence in the country as illegal, insisting that the American forces should leave the region.

    Speaking with reporters, Muallem linked talks on the future of the country’s southern region with the US’ withdrawal from its base in al-Tanf, established in 2016.

    “You should not believe the statements made about the agreement on Syria’s south as long as the US forces have not withdrawn from al-Tanf,” he said.

    The foreign minister also dismissed the reports of Iranian bases and forces allegedly deployed in Syria.

    "Iran’s presence does not exist in a military manner on the ground in Syria — these are tales told by Israel. Iran’s presence is legitimate as it is based on the request of the Syrian government, unlike the presence of the United States," Muallem stressed.

    In May, head of the Syrian government delegation to the Astana peace talks Bashar Jaafari called the US military presence in al-Tanf and nearby Rukban refugee camp in the south of the country as “pure aggression and occupation.”

    The United States occupies a 34-mile zone around its base in al-Tanf, where it has been training Syrian opposition forces since 2016; the base, however, has become a subject of criticism as Damascus and Moscow expressed concerns that Washington was “spewing Daesh* mobile groups who make inroads to launch subversive terrorist operations against Syrian troops and civilians.”

    Since 2014, the US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against Daesh targets in Syria without a UN mandate or authorization from the legitimate government, which Damascus views as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

    *Daesh, also known as ISIL/ISIS/IS, is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.

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    Tags:
    US military base, Walid Muallem, al-Tanf, Syria
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